Last week, the Duke University men’s basketball team canceled their game in the Smith Center at UNC because the roads to Chapel Hill were impassable due to a winter storm. The snow only picked up through the night, and the team spent the next 24 hours trapped in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Today, The Minor uncovered Duke forward Jabari Parker’s firsthand account of that time.
Warning: Dustribing descriptions follow
Jabari Parker | The Minor
5:00 pm, February 12th: “He” said that we can’t get the bus out, and that we have to cancel the game. I don’t know how to feel. I’m relieved we don’t have to play–it would have been all students over there–but I don’t know what will happen if we stay here tonight. “He” is always watching us. The snow has to let up soon.
7:00 pm, February 12th: It looks like we are trapped in here for the night. I heard “He” ask [Steve] Wojciehowski to take stock of what supplies we have in Cameron Indoor. We are sprinting. Sprints and sprints. “He” keeps yelling, saying we can’t slip, we can’t mess up. Plumlee is fucking up as usual, that big buffoon. He keeps trying to joke about it, too. Plumlee can’t feel how much “He” hates it. I don’t know how that’s possible.
7:30 pm, February 12th: Wojo told “He” that the concession stand had big gas grills with plenty of fuel, but it wasn’t stocked with food. That meant we only had the cereal and protein powder in the locker room. “He” didn’t say anything. Quinn [Cook] asked for a break from lay-ups to call his mother to let her know he was okay. They made him run sprints until he threw up. “He” had the rest of us doing lay-up drills. [Assistant Coach Jon] Scheyer is always following close behind him, a snarling and barking echo. “He” gains power from his disciples, [Assistant Coach Jeff] Capel, [Nate] James and most of all Wojo, his prince. I fear them more than him sometimes. They would do anything to gain his approval. Rodney [Hood] talks about that one time he heard Wojo through the door, screaming in convulsed pain and pleasure in his private meeting with “He.” I don’t want to think about that.
8:30 pm, February 12th: We are going to sleep in the locker room tonight, “He” said. I only want to get through this. They can’t keep us in here forever. I know a lot of other guys are as scared as I am, but no one is saying anything. A few minutes ago Plumlee asked how we would practice if there was no food. “He” almost destroyed him. Before I knew what had happened, “He” had him backed into a locker, saying we are going to practice no matter what happens. That we will never stop practicing and we should thank him for his service to us. We began the daily ceremony, bowing down before him, telling him of his greatness and our appreciation of his knowledge. We kissed his feet. The walk-ons, his minions, do the ritual best of all. This appeased him, but it did not pleasure him as usual.
11:30 pm, February 12th: I’m sleeping on the ground near my locker. I put an old sweatshirt under my head to make it a bit more comfortable. Some of the walk-ons were laughing earlier when “He” came in. “He” told them to shut the fuck up. We all have heard the stories of these nights, but we never thought it would be us. [Rasheed] Sulaimon and I talked a bit before I began writing. He is scared too. He sometimes says, and I agree, that he wishes he had gone to UNC and enjoyed his life. But we cannot change the past. Sulaimon said he still worries that “He” has not forgiven him for his slump. He’s right.
6:00 am, February 13th: When we woke up, there was a piece of paper tacked to the bulletin board. It was a list of our names. Plumlee first, then Sulaimon, then some walk-ons, on and on. I’m last. I am not going to think about it, I am just going to sprint.
7:30 am, February 13th: Our breakfast was cereal and protein powder. We ate the last of it. We worked on foul shots all morning. Sulaimon was struggling. “He” was pacing the baseline, pouncing on any error, but mainly murmuring to himself that, “we have to stay strong…we have to stay sharp.”
12:00 pm, February 13th: “He” finally mentioned the list during the last water break. He said that, to keep everyone sharp, “He” was going to have a “personal development conference” with each of us, going in the order on the list. “He” said it was the only way to make it through all of this as a good team. “He” told Plumlee it was time for his conference, and to follow “He” to his office. Plumlee didn’t say anything. He swallowed hard and blinked, then got up and followed “He.” Wojo was right behind them. I’ve never seen his eyes like that. Whatever was going to happen, he was ready for it. Wanted it even.
1:30 pm, February 13th: Scheyer had us running layup drills while they were gone. He was doing a bad impersonation of “He,” with the baseline pacing and critiques. There is only one “He.” I am continually reminded of that. When “He” finally returned, his eyes were bulging, and I couldn’t tell if “He” was snarling or smiling. His hair was wild and matted, and his shirt was drenched in sweat. “He” said it was time to eat, to follow him into the locker room. We did as “He” said. Inside was a large aluminum tray on one of the benches. A huge, rare roast was perfectly placed in the middle of it. “He” said to eat it, but no one moved a muscle. Wojo came out of the shower area, wearing different clothes. “He” said we will eat. The walk-ons began tearing into the meal, grease covering their face like animals. I knew he was watching me, and I swallowed a couple of bites. I don’t want to remember how it tasted. “He,” was saying we must stay sharp, we must stay sharp. Plumlee wasn’t there.
2:00 pm, February 13th: The walk-ons asked if we could start practicing again. I was leaving the locker room when “He” pulled me aside. “He” said he saw my reluctance, but that I should not worry. That I was last on the list for a reason. “He” said “He” loves me, that I can be the heart of this team, that everything “He” does is for Duke basketball. “He” said he hoped I understood that. I just nodded. It can’t snow forever.
5:15 pm, February 13th: Sulaimon missed a layup and “He” was all over him. It was brutal. Sulaimon dropped to the floor, crying and yelling that he could not go to his personal development conference, that he could not do it anymore, that he was trying his hardest. As “He” was about to respond, Thornton interrupted, saying that “he would take Sulaimon’s place,” that, he wasn’t afraid, he would do anything for Duke basketball. Thornton walked past Sulaimon toward “He,” looking down in disgust. Thornton said that Sulaimon did not deserve the conference, but that he would cherish and learn from his. Rodney, never to be outdone, began offering himself instead of Thornton. The walk-ons all ran towards “He” and began the ritual again, kissing his feet. “He” was unhappy. “He” kicked a walk-on and screamed, “Do you doubt that I know why the list is this way? DO YOU DOUBT ME OR DO YOU PRAISE ME!?” I was completely afraid and alone. “He” told Sulaimon to get up and follow him. Sulaimon was sobbing, but he did what he was instructed, walking slowly behind “He.”
When they were almost off the court, Sulaimon fell to his knees again. He was blubbering, begging “He” for mercy.
Then, light came pouring in on him. A security guard was standing in the open door. He said that the snow around Cameron was cleared, that we could leave the gym.
“He” starred at the man for a second. The only thing punctuating silence were the dry heaves of Sulaimon. “He” looked down at Sulaimon. The security guard asked if we were going to be ready for, “the big game.” I could only think of Plumlee.
“He” said we were going for a team dinner at Au Bon Pain.
Saturday, February 15th: We beat Maryland today, barely. Plumlee was not on the roster. We were not sharp, and “He” said we would have to be sharper for UNC. In the locker room, the list is still on the bulletin board.